Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review – The Bridge on the River Kwai

For a war movie, this is an exceptionally morally ambiguous production. On the one hand we have an English officer (Alec Guiness) who seems like a decent, upstanding sort of guy. Yet he gets so deeply into cooperating with his Japanese captors that he actually ends up improving their chances of building a bridge that will carry troops and munitions to the front lines of the fight against the British. On the other hand we have William Holden as an American POW with distinct similarities to the character he played in Stalag 17. So who’s the hero, the noble traitor trying to build the bridge or the selfish commando trying to blow it up? The end helps resolve matters somewhat, but it’s still a strange journey getting there. It’s also a trip that could have been a bit shorter; the picture includes a lot of long, drawn-out sequences that don’t really contribute all that much to the plot. Overall, however, it’s an interesting relic from a time when war was more vague. Mildly amusing

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review – American Assassin

This starts out to be a mildly amusing bit of low-budget documentary film-making about Lee Harvey Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union and brief career in a radio factory in Minsk. Almost immediately we start getting bad reenactments of events in Oswald’s life (featuring an actor who bears little or no resemblance to the man he’s playing). But eventually – as all such productions apparently must – it departs from the facts and veers into speculation. And again following the usual Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist pattern, speculation becomes evidence that in turn becomes a one-sided account of events. Even that would have been okay if this had added anything new or even interesting to the discussion, but it didn’t. See if desperate

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Review - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I think I actually liked this one a bit better than the first one. It seems like just about every super hero movie I’ve seen lately has devoted an excessive amount of screen time to character development. I don’t want to hear about Spider-man’s relationship woes. Just let him fight the bad guys. The first FF movie suffered a bit too much from this problem as well. Though it’s not completely absent from this go-around, it seems like they’ve finally figured out that audiences come for the flashy effects, scary villains and dramatic fights. I think I would have done things a bit differently (for example, less Von Doom and more Surfer back-story), but overall this was fun to watch. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 23, 2007

Review – Bug (2006)

Small cast. Single location. Stiff dialogue. No special effects to speak of. Yep, it’s yet another bad play transformed into a bad movie. Actually, for all I know this might have worked well on the stage. But on the screen? No. Here it’s an annoying hour and a half about a woman who takes in a drifter only to discover that he suffers from a bizarre delusion about bugs. Or is it a delusion? Before we even got to the bug part, I’d already stopped caring. See if desperate

Monday, November 19, 2007

Review – The Black Hole

After Star Wars caused such a stir in 1977, other movie studios tried hopping onto the sci fi bandwagon. This was Disney’s less-than-successful bid to join the club. The cast sports some talented – or at least familiar – actors (Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux and Ernest Borgnine, to name just three). The effects aren’t up to ILM par, but they’re good for the time. The script is bad, but the underlying story has a few interesting twists and turns. The problem here isn’t what the movie is, it’s what it isn’t. And what it isn’t is Star Wars. The characters, the robots, the villains, just about everything in the whole show finds a parallel in its more popular predecessor (except in the end, when it suddenly turns into 2001 for no readily-apparent reason). The result is a picture that screams “bargain basement” almost the whole way through. See if desperate

Review – Bright Lights, Big City

This should be Big 80s. It has the cast; Michael J. Fox alone should have been enough to assure it a spot on the decade’s Q-list. Add a lot of drinking and cocaine, and you should be getting a good picture of upper-middle-class white America thought about itself at the time. Trouble is, it’s so damn boring that it’s hard to stick with it long enough to draw much of a cultural look-and-feel from the experience. The plot is pure soap: Fox plays an under-employed yuppie trying to party away his dissatisfaction with life. His wife leaves him for a more glamorous life as a fashion model. His boss is a jerk. His best friend is a jerk. He’s still trying to come to grips with the death of his mother. And half of New York (with the audience along for the ride) has to play therapist as he shares his life story with anyone who will at least pretend to listen. I’m genuinely astonished to find myself typing this, but Less Than Zero was actually a better movie. See if desperate

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Review – Black Book

It takes some doing to make the Holocaust take a back seat to the other dramatic elements of a movie, but this one does it. Yet again a thriller becomes so obsessed with the twists and turns of double-crossing that it loses track of just about everything else. The story starts out earnestly enough: a young Jewish woman joins the Dutch resistance after her family is massacred by Nazi thieves. But from there it sinks almost immediately into a mire of who’s-on-which-side. Some minor league violence and sex help keep things somewhat interesting, but otherwise the whole thing is fairly dull. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 9, 2007

Review - Fido

Leave it to Beaver meets Night of the Living Dead in this post-zombie-apocalypse set in the 1950s. In the peaceful green land of small town America everyone who’s anyone has a domesticated zombie. They’re great for all your household chores et cetera as long as nothing interferes with the collars that keep them docile. Needless to say, an accident shuts off the collar of a boy’s pet reanimated corpse (the title character, played by Billy Connolly) and things go downhill from there. The production is mostly concept and ham-handed allegory, though it’s somewhat entertaining to watch Connolly convey zombified emotion from behind a mountain of makeup. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 2, 2007

Review – Brother Bear

Jeez this movie has a lot of death, even for a Disney production. The studio continues to make its way through the world’s various ethnicities, here ostensibly telling an American Indian story of a young man transformed into a bear. The production has an amusing touch here and there, such as Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis voicing a pair of distinctly Great White Northern moose. Otherwise this is more depressing than it is entertaining. Mildly amusing